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30-days in Bucerias Mexico
FEB 23, 2020. DESTILADERAS BEACH
Today was an experiment that worked perfectly. Playa Destiladeras is one of the most beautiful beaches in Riviera Nayarit, but it is off the beaten track. Located between La Cruz and Punta Mita on the old highway 200, we thought that we could only get there by car.
A million buses go to Punta Mita, but I assumed they took the new highway 200. The experiment for this day was to ride the Punta Mita bus and see which route it takes. I got the bright idea to write Playa Destiladeras in big letters on a sheet of paper to show the bus driver as we boarded. Why? Because no matter how much I practiced saying it, I just stumbled and mumbled. I could hear my high school Spanish teacher every time I attempted to say it. With all those syllables, it's not an easy word to say in a different language.
Anyway, when the Punta Mita bus came to the bus stop, the bus driver waved us in as I showed him the sign. 17 MXN pesos (.85 USD) bought us each a one-way ticket to paradise.
Playa Destiladeras' beach has the whitest sand in Nayarit. The waves, although not quite as punchy as San Pancho, are on par with Sayulita's fun-for-fitness waves. They are perfect for body surfing, which I have perfected. We spent over 2 hours in one stretch getting sloshed around.
The best feature of Playa Destiladeras is its beach that goes on for miles, not connected to any town or city or box hotels. The shoreline is remote and expansive, with gorgeous rock formations overlooking the sand.
There is a beach bar and restaurant that rents an umbrella and four chairs for 250 MXN pesos (13 USD) for the day. Last year, we got some great nachos at the restaurant. We kept it on the lighter side this time. Wanda got a couple of margaritas and shared it with me.
I took a long walk along the beach this beautiful day, experiencing the perfect temperature, witnessing the dark blues of the ocean against the blue sky, enjoying the cooling ocean breeze that was complimenting the warm sun. Priceless!
The bus ride back was uneventful. We topped off the day with a humongous meal at a street restaurant.
FEB 25-26 , 2020
TUESDAY’S MISSION - meet our nieces, Mo (Maureen) and Kack (Kathleen), at the airport. We arrived at 2:15 pm as their plane was due to arrive at 2:40 pm. Customs was packed as several carriers deplaned at the same time. Mo and Kack finally emerged from customs at 3:30 pm.
They packed one humongous roller bag for the two of them, plus their personal backpacks. We pushed the monster bag over the highway via the overhead walkway to the bus stand. As soon as we reached the bus stand, a bus pulled up. While the girls quickly heaved the 52-pound behemoth onto the bus, I fumbled to find the correct change. Somehow we made it on and settled in for the 45-minute ride to Bucerias. Welcome to Mexico!
After settling in at the Airbnb, we couldn't wait to take our new guests on a tour of Bucerias, a small dusty Mexican fishing village with lots of Canadian ex-Pats, live bands, and spectacular beaches. Our first stop was Buzzo's Bar to check out Jeff playing a solo gig. After friendly introductions to Jeff and a few other familiar folks, we moved on to zig-zagging around the old town. Of course, we introduced them to Paletas. I got the blueberry cheesecake again. Mo and Kack tried the strawberry cream.
WEDNESDAY’S MISSION was three-fold: 1) We needed to exchange some currency. 2) Mo had set up a dentist appointment in Mezcales, a short bus ride from Bucerias for 13 MXN pesos. 3) Head to a beach to start their beachy vacation. I was scheduled to play a private party with Jeff that evening, so I had to get everyone settled in at the beach in Bucerias.
We had breakfast at Karen’s Place on the beach because it was close to CI Banco and located in the newer, sexier section of Bucerias that wasn't covered on their first day-tour.
Mo and Kack had debit cards. After asking around, we learned that CI Banco gave decent exchange rates and has ATMs that accept debit cards. CI Banco also allows you to draw up to 10,000 MXN pesos (500 USD) per transaction. Mo took out the max to split with Kack. I exchanged 400 USD at the window for 8000 MXN pesos. The dollar continues to grow in strength, vis-a-vis the peso. The official rate was 19.28 MXN per USD. I got 18.10 MXN/USD at the window. Mo’s worked out to be 18.90 MXN/USD after fees using the ATM.
Bucerias beach was next. We bee-lined it straight to the Chivero Bar and Restaurant, picked a table on the beach, and settled in for the late afternoon. We had drinks, chips-and-salsa before I had to go. Wanda, Kack and Mo went swimming, laid in the sun, watched the ex-Pats dance with the local Hootchie Koo band until 7:30 pm. It's Mexico time here.
Huey, the lead singer in The MexPats, was booked for a 70th birthday party for a local Canadian ex-Pat at his condo right on the beach. We played it as a trio - the singer, Jeff, and myself. There was plenty of food, drinks, and 3000 MXN pesos each to play a 2-hour gig. Not bad and just loads of fun. I hope that covered what Wanda spent at Chiveros that afternoon (lol).
FEB 27, 2020. PLAYA COLOMITOS (The hidden beach.)
Boca de Tomaltan trail to Las Animas
It was a three-bus marathon excursion from Bucerias to Boca de Tomaltan, where the trail to Las Animas leads to the hidden beach of Colomitos Cove.
One of our bus transfers dropped us off at the “Zona Romantica” section of Puerto Vallarta. We walked through Zona Romantica on our way to the Boca bus connections, where we stopped to have a hearty breakfast at Johny’s. I got my favorite, Huevos Rancheros, which turned out to be even cheaper than Karen’s Restaurant in Bucerias - sweet.
The Boca bus connection is the third leg of the trip that went from Puerto Vallarta to the tiny harbor town of Boca de Tomatlan. Boca is where the trailhead through the jungle leads to the Colomitos Cove and where the beautiful hidden beach is located. Boca de Tamatlan is also a jungle village surrounded by resorts. It is the Rio (River) Tomatlan that runs through it that creates the harbor of Boca and an inviting swimming beach.
About one-third of the way is a small hidden intimate beach, Playa Colomitos, nestled at the end of a long narrow bay where the waves gather force as they get squeezed then explode on the beach. We all jumped in and enjoyed the ride. Colomitos Cove is only accessible by boat or by trail.
Just before reaching the hidden Playa Colomitos, is the 5-star rated Ocean Grill. It is rated one of the world’s 100 best restaurants. Being in such a remote but beautiful spot adds to the ambience. Ocean Grill specializes in fresh seafood and USDA prime cuts and is a cash only and reservation only restaurant. It can be reached by boat or on foot. Check here for details in Ocean Grill.
We hung out at the little beach until 2:00 pm. Refreshed and sun-baked, it was time to return to the trail toward Las Animas, another small town that is only accessible by boat or on foot. Along the way, there was another hidden beach that was breathtakingly beautiful as we walked past it. The jungle trail is mostly undeveloped with only two well-manicured eco-style resorts. The coastline is full of huge boulders getting pounded by the surf.
Las Animas is an echo-resort town. The majority of the room rentals were thatch-roofed with several amazing treehouse rentals. The village harbor was a wide beach with a long cement pier right in the middle. Here we were planning to take a boat to Mismaloya, which is the village next door to Boca de Tomatlan.
As soon as we reached Las Animas, a boat driven by a dad with his young English-speaking son seeking passengers, approached us. The son quoted us 700 pesos to go to Mismaloya, but only 50 pesos each or 200 MXN pesos (10 USD) for the four of us. (Last year, the boat ride was 100 pesos each.)
I didn’t understand the large discrepancy between Mismaloya and Boca, they are so close to each other, but I jumped on the ride to Boca. The downside was that we didn’t spend much time in Las Animas to have a beer at a beach restaurant and listen to a traditional Mexican oom-pah-pah band playing live. Oh well.
Once back in Puerto Vallarta, we ate at MargaritaGrill, a restaurant that Jeff introduced us to the first time we came to Puerto Vallarta 5 years ago. The food and drinks are luscious. Although pricey, they practically bring the food in wheelbarrows; there is so much food. We could have ordered one fajita plate, and it would have fed all four of us. Wanda and I did split a fajita plate. Mo got three gigantic fish tacos. Kack ordered Molcajetes, a surprisingly tasty dish of grilled cactus, steak, chorizo, scallions, peppers, etc. Grilled cactus was very adventurous for Kack, the picky eater in the family. Her experiment turned successful, as all parts of this dish were delicious.
Back in Bucerias, we got out at the Oxxo bus stop. Oxxo stores are the ubiquitous convenience stores located on every block in Mexico. We discovered that Oxxo sells 40-ounce bottles of Pacifico for 34 pesos. Each big bottle holds three glasses of beer. We bought two, giving Mo, Kack, and myself two beers each for the evening - Nice. Mo was worried that carrying the 40s back to the Airbnb would make her look like an “alchie,” so I carried them.
FEB 28, 2020. SAYULITA
We skipped breakfast this morning. Sayulita's Friday art fair has plenty of vendors. Once at the art fair, I got the best Sope I ever had. Sopes are like tostadas with a thicker tortilla to hold all the toppings and juices. They are a hit and miss item, ranging from OK to very good. This sope was in the excellent category.
Wanda got a fair trade artisan coffee with tons of sweet stuff on the side, like brownies and coconut macaroons. Wanda also picked up on a fashionable, wide-brimmed straw hat for added sun protection.
Last week, the town seemed dusty and a bit on the drab side. Not this week. Sayulita's charm was back. We gave Mo and Kack our zigzag tour-of-the-town. Finally, around noon, we headed to our favorite beach spot. The waves were scary big on this day - no one was swimming. We attempted, but only got an ass-crack full of gravelly sand for our efforts. The thing is, we couldn't get past the breakers, which kept tumbling us down into the sand-filled seafoam. The one time I did get farther out, I got spooked by the heavy undertow.
The girls decided to sunbathe while Wanda and I hiked down the beach towards the jungle and tumble of boulders. There were some sizeable cliffs and rock formations at the end of the beach. When we reached the rocks, we lamented not bringing our sandals. The trail kept on going into the jungle along the cliffs. I tried to cautiously walk barefoot over the rocks, but was forced to turn back. Next time we come to Sayulita, we will come prepared to explore this trail.
By 2:30 pm, the waves looked slightly calmer. Mo suggested giving them another go. Wanda and I were game. I was so disappointed that we wimped out earlier that I was eager for us to redeem ourselves. The waves were still strong, but the undertow had vanished. Wanda and I quickly fought our way past the breakers. Our new game is to call out the tackle-option as the next large rogue wave towers towards us. To helicopter-it is to jump higher than the swell, jellyfish-it means to hold your nose and hat and fold straight down to let the wave wash over you, jet ride means to keep your hat in front of your extended arms (superman style) while body surfing the crest to the shore. We spent the next hour ducking and weaving the monster waves. I felt relieved that we got our usual daily pounding in.
FEB 29, 2020. SAN PANCHO
(aka San Francisco)
Wanda and I returned to San Pancho with Mo and Kack in tow. It was yet another bright sunny day in the low 80s. Breakfast at wonderful Panino's because it's the only cafe I know that takes credit cards.
The bus fare to San Pancho went from 34 MXN pesos last weekend to 40 MXN pesos (1.95 USD) this weekend - it's still a deal. We walked the mile through San Pancho from the bus stop to the beach. Upon reaching the lustrous sand beach with our favorite body-churning waves, we plopped down on chaise lounges under a couple of umbrellas for 250 MXN (12 USD). This was another serious beach day.
San Pancho waves were near perfect. The sand bottom was perfect. The gentle ocean drop-off was perfect. The hot sun and cool ocean breezes were perfect. The company we were entertaining were perfect. Wanda and I had a perfect two hour session of wave-wrestling in the ocean. It was nearly 5 pm when we packed it in for the day.
On the way back to the bus stop, we found an earthy little courtyard that featured a wood-fired pizza oven. I love Italian as much as Mexican food, so we decided to get a pizza. The pizzas matched the day so far - they were perfect with a thin crispy crust, the right amount of toppings, and a slightly smoked overtone.
While waiting for the return bus, an Uber driver stopped and offered to take us to Bucerias for the same price as the bus. He took a passenger from Puerto Vallarta to Guayabitos, and he was dead-heading back to Puerto. The car was comfortable and air-conditioned, the drive was quick, and the ride, too, was perfect.
After we showered the beach sand and sunscreen off, I called Jeff and invited us over. Jeff graciously accepted my invitation. Mo and Kack wanted a tour of their newly remodeled home, and Jeff is an excellent tour guide. He mixed some perfect fruit drinks for the ladies and entertained us for the evening (Teri was shopping and arrived later). After a short but fun visit, we walked back to the Airbnb, planned the next day together and retired early.
MAR 01, 2020. Destiladeras Beach
Jeff and Teri planned a big group outing at Playa Destiladeras (Destiladeras beach) and invited us to meet them there after the four of us visited the La Cruz Sunday Market Fair in the Marina.